Roby's Return Should Bolster Defense

Bradley Roby's offseason was full of twists and turns, but the junior defensive back is now right where he wants to be -- preparing for a game Saturday. Though there's no guarantee Roby will be in the starting lineup vs. San Diego State, his return will boost an OSU defense that was young and inexperienced Saturday.

When Bradley Roby returned to Ohio State this season, it was with the intention of winning a national championship and bettering his draft stock -- not to be fighting for a starting spot.

But that's exactly the predicament that the fourth-year cornerback currently finds himself in as he returns from a one-game suspension that came as a result an offseason arrest. Although Roby's initial charge of battery was ultimately dropped -- as was a reduced charge of disorderly conduct -- head coach Urban Meyer opted to keep his team's top defensive back out of the season opener against Buffalo, and he said that Roby will have to earn the right to play in this weekend's showdown with San Diego State.

"He's competing for a spot. He will not be named starter," Meyer said of Roby. "Probably won't make that decision until Thursday."

While his status as a starter remains up in the air, Roby's return couldn't have come at a better time for the Buckeyes, who are preparing for an Aztecs squad that attempted 63 passes in its season-opening loss to FCS foe Eastern Illinois. The nation's leader in passes defended per game (1.73) in 2012, Roby established himself as one of the country's top defensive backs in his sophomore season, and was a member of preseason watch lists for the Thorpe Award, Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Award and Walter Camp Award.

It's that type of talent that Roby hopes surfaces this week, as he competes with Armani Reeves for the right to start at Ohio State's boundary corner position. Buckeyes' cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said that he knows eagerness won't be an issue with Roby, who is now on his second week of preparing for San Diego State.

"Football players at all levels, but certainly the great ones, they live to play the game," Coombs said. "Last week, all week, he was in the office watching San Diego State film, preparing himself for this week. He has treated this situation like a professional and he has worked hard to stay in shape."

While Coombs also admitted that there's a difference between preparing for a game that's in the distant future and one that's just a few days away from happening, he remains confident that the Suwannee, Ga., native will be ready to go on Saturday, whether he's on the field for the defense's first snap or comes in later.

"He's excited about Saturday, I'm excited about Saturday. It's time to go," Coombs said. "It's been a long time since he's been on the field. I think he's excited about that and I guarantee that I am."

The same could be said for Roby's teammates, who won't gain leadership and experience only from his return, but also that of safety C.J. Barnett, who is expected to play after missing the Buffalo game with an ankle sprain. With Ryan Shazier suffering from cramps in the second and third quarter of last weekend's contest, the Buckeyes were left with just one starter from a season ago on the field in Christian Bryant for an extended period of time against the Bulls, an experience that they hope they won't have to endure again this Saturday.

"It'll mean a lot having two veterans back," junior cornerback Doran Grant said. "Experienced veterans who are very good players, NFL-caliber players."

Bryant echoed Grant's thoughts, stating that Roby and Barnett's returns will add "wisdom" to the OSU defense. The reality that Roby is even in a position to be fighting for a starting spot this week is a positive for the Buckeyes, who for multiple reasons could have just as easily been without their star corner for the duration of the 2013 season.

Months before his July arrest for an incident that occurred at a bar in Bloomington, Ind., Roby was faced with the decision of whether to enter April's NFL draft. And while he ultimately decided to stay in Columbus for one more season for reasons that Meyer respected, the second-year Ohio State coach also noticed Roby dealing with some second thoughts that may have played a role in him being in the wrong place at the wrong time in the offseason.

"I believe that he went through a little bit of a funk of buyer's remorse," Meyer said. "He learned a really strong lesson and he's done everything we've asked him to do."

And as a result, Roby will be back on the field this Saturday, whether it's at the cornerback position that he's made a name for himself at, or on special teams. Regardless of his position, Roby's coaches couldn't be happier to have him back and ready to start the season that he first envisioned when he decided to come back to school for one last season.

"Roby being back is certainly going to help us," Meyer said. "I'm anxious to get him back on the field."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories